Femi Falana, SAN, a human rights attorney, has pleaded with the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to call an urgent extra-ordinary meeting to address Senegal’s worsening human rights and rule of law conditions.
In a statement released on Wednesday on behalf of Falana and Falana Chambers, signed by Tayo Soyemi, Falana made this claim.
His call came after President Macky Sall cancelled this month’s elections, alleging a dispute over candidates’ eligibility as justification.
According to Falana, “The ECOWAS leaders should consider imposing targeted sanctions including imposing travel bans, asset freezes and other targeted sanctions on Mr Sall and officials of his government responsible for serious violations of the democratic rights of the people of Senegal.”
The statement partly reads, “Imposing targeted sanctions on Mr. Sall and officials of his government is consistent with the provisions of ECOWAS treaties and protocols including article 45 (2) of the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.”
“Article 2 (1) & (2) of the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance stipulate that: 1. No substantial modification shall be made to the electoral laws in the last six (6) months before the elections, except with the consent of a majority of political actors. 2. All the elections shall be organized on the dates or at periods fixed by the Constitution or the electoral laws.
“In July 2023, President Macky Sall dropped his ambition to run for a third term in this year’s election, ending years of uncertainty over his political future that helped fuel deadly opposition protests.
“Since then, he has been manipulating the democratic process to install his surrogate. The illegal postponement of the elections is due to President Sacky Mall’s fear that his chosen candidate would be rejected in the polls by the Senegalese people.
“The postponement of the elections is a constitutional coup and a major threat to the rule of law and constitutional government not only in Senegal but also across the subregion, especially given planned exit of Burkina-Faso, Niger and Mali from the ECOWAS.
“The postponement of the elections is also a fundamental breach of the Lome Declaration and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance which Senegal has signed. Senegal signed the Charter on 15 December 2008, and as such, the government has a good faith obligation to comply with the provisions of the Charter.
“I also note the provisions of Article 3(h) of the African Union Constitutive Act. In fact, during the Thirty-Fifth Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the OAU, delegates ‘unanimously rejected any unconstitutional change as an unacceptable and anachronistic act, which is in contradiction of our commitment to promote democratic principles and conditions.